We are very privileged to have some spectacular people at Fighting Arts Collective. Every month we will share one of their stories.
Meet Jacquie M…A Gentle-Lady and a Scholar and a student at Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a career registered nurse, with primary background in Emergency Medicine. I have been a nurse in the ED for more than 20 years, and greatly enjoy being able to contribute to my community in such a capacity. I am also a Master’s prepared biologist, embellishing my primary career with a second interest in phylogenetics (eg. the generation of genealogies of species used to understand phenomena of evolutionary importance) and in animal communication (in particular vocal signalling). I pursue this second interest in a minor way in the laboratories of the Royal Ontario Museum, an association that goes back to my undergrad days. I volunteer regularly with the Citizen Scientists group at the Rouge Valley Conservation Centre as a “mammal specialist”, providing information and education about local mammalian biodiversity and conservation issues. My greatest love would be my past fieldwork; getting shoulder-deep among students and scientists in the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge about organisms and how they live in their environments.
In my “off” time I like reading, classical and folk music, equestrian activities, exploring parks and reserves, playing with my side-kick Guenhwyvar, an 11 lb French Lop-eared rabbit…..and, of course, fencing!
What made you decide to study medieval martial arts?
Once, when I was very young, I would daydream about being a Zorro-like character. As I matured I would dream sometimes about fencing in the Olympics. I always thought this a talent beyond my capabilities.
Suiting up at the AEMMA camping weekend
Later in life I was introduced to AEMMA while volunteering at the annual March break Medieval Fair put together by the Royal Ontario Museum. In these events I would be attired as a 14th Century gentleman and demonstrate various Medieval dance. I became acquainted with David Cvet at these venues, a provost and one of the originators of AEMMA. At these events he would be talking about the art of armizare and demonstrating “How a Man Shall be Armed”, along with several members of the AEMMA society. David encouraged my interest in fencing, despite my reservations about being a woman, being middle aged, and being a person with no martial arts experience. He also suggested to me that the fundamentals I would learn as a medieval martial artist would be useful in everyday self-defense, as well as bolster a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. This message has been reinforced by each instructor I have had the privilege of training under at AEMMA. Since that introduction, I have come to love every aspect of the medieval system. However I admit my greatest joy is fencing in all of its forms. I now entertain new aspirations to armoured fencing at some point in my future; not bad for a gal who started out with 2 left feet and an incredible amount of self-consciousness.
What is your favorite thing about the school?
My long- sword (nicknamed Snarsel)
My favorite thing about AEMMA is, without a doubt, the people I share training with. We have a wonderful and eclectic mix of members, many of whom I now count as close friends. I also really enjoy the opportunity to see and participate in other martial systems under our larger umbrella organization FACT (Fighting Arts Collective). Having a background also in comparative biology and phylogenetics I am, of course, always fascinated by similarities among systems, and am often filled with questions as to their origins: what historical phenomena underpin similarities in training systems, and also observed differences? AEMMA (and FACT) are not only nourishing for the body, but for the mind as well.
You recently completed your scholar test. What was that like?
It was challenging on several levels. As a scholler candidate, you reap what you sew in your training and I wanted to show that I not only understood the historical material, but could demonstrate my potential in being able to help translate it into action. I got off to a slow start. There were several areas in which I felt weak, and spent many months preparing. Probably the most challenging area was the daga material, which incidentally forms the largest proportion of the Liberi manuscript. In daga you can see translated all of the plays described in fencing, as well as wrestling.
Fencing with free scholler Beau Brock at my scholler test
The actual test was a unique experience. I had been previously well-acquainted with public speaking and the presentation of research, often done before a room full of academic scholars of various backgrounds. I thought this would prepare me for the test. I was wrong. Perhaps it is because, in research, you invest less of your persona and more of your intellect. In the scholler test I found the most important thing I needed to project was not my knowledge, but my confidence and my ability to make all of the “parts” I had learned flow as a single expression of training. In this regard I actually felt my work on the knowledge aspect of the test impeded, to some degree, my actual expression of the art in my test.
I walked away from my test being a successful as a scholler candidate. However I found that really what I walked away with was the humbling awareness of how far I had yet to go and how much I had yet to learn. Food for the future!